Jerusalem Municipality Orders Closure of Bridge Leading to Temple Mount

Mughrabi Bridge in Jerusalem's Old City in danger of collapse, says engineer; Netanyahu had in the past ordered delay of bridge's demolition due to warnings from Egypt and Jordan.

The Jerusalem municipality has ordered the immediate closure of the Mughrabi Bridge in the old city, which leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, saying it poses a danger to the public since it is on the verge of collapse.

In a letter to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Jerusalem municipality's engineer, Shlomo Eshkol, said he intends on ordering the "immediate closure of the structure" and "completely prohibit its use."

Mughrabi Bridge, Jerusalem Old City
Emil Salman

According to the regulations, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation has seven days to submit its objections to the order.

Jerusalem municipality officials stressed that the wooden bridge poses a severe security threat since it is highly flammable and in danger of collapsing. They warned that if a fire breaks out it could spread to the Temple Mount.

The municipality said that only a small number of security officials will be able to use the bridge, and only under urgent circumstances.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Jerusalem municipality two weeks ago to postpone the demolition of the Mughrabi Bridge, which was already due to begin.

Netanyahu's bureau had asked the municipality to postpone the work due to the sensitivity of the issue and warnings from Egypt that the action would focus protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Israel.

A new bridge is meant to replace the wooden structure built over the Mughrabi Ramp, which partially collapsed following a storm in 2004. The dismantling of the ramp in 2007 led to protests in the Muslim world and international criticism.

The dispute over the bridge has now become a key issue in Egypt's elections. The Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, called Thursday on Jordanian King Abdullah to dissuade Israel from replacing the ramp.

Qaradawi claims that Israel wants to replace the bridge to ease access by settlers and its security forces to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Posters were put up at Cairo's Al-Azhar University calling on Muslims to protect the mosque.

The Jordanian minister of Muslim religious trusts also warned Israel of the implications of demolishing the bridge. Officials in Israel told Haaretz that the crisis in relations with Jordan had led Amman to renege on an agreement with Israel over the bridge.

The officials said Jordan had changed its position because it was worried that the Palestinian Authority would use its new membership in UNESCO to increase its influence in the holy places in Jerusalem. The Jordanians say that Israel had agreed in the peace treaty with Jordan that the Jordanian Muslim religious trust would continue to administer the site.